11 Ways to Make Healthcare IT Easier

The phrase 'don't boil the ocean' is often used to describe efforts to introduce IT to healthcare organizations. These 11 tips will help healthcare CIOs make incremental changes that improve business practices without panicking end users.

Thu, June 20, 2013

CIO — The life of a healthcare CIO is not an easy one. In addition to the myriad enterprise IT challenges faced by the typical CIO, technology professionals working in healthcare face HIPAA privacy and security laws, government mandates to implement or update Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology and, above all, a culture built on paper charts, paper prescriptions and folders upon folders of medical records.

While some may call for a dramatic sea chance to bring healthcare IT into the 21st century, the reality is that the journey of 1,000 miles really does begin with a single step. Many organizations have begun that journey, though, and see the value in sharing what they've learned along the way.

At the recent Health IT Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. hosted by the Institute for Health Technology Transformation, healthcare IT leaders shared the lessons they had learned from EHR and data analytics implementation, offered hints for embracing BYOD in an industry that demands security and looked to the future of EHR use, data exchange and genomics.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

The beginning of 2014 means the beginning of stage 2 of the federal government's meaningful use incentive program. While stage 1—which began in 2011 or 2012, depending on when organizations first completed meaningful use attestation—focuses on capturing and sharing data, stage 2 emphasizes using that data to advance clinical processes, which is done through the use of e-prescriptions, lab results and Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE).

Stage 2 of meaningful use, then, is inherently more complex than stage 1. It doesn't help that "turnkey" stage 2 products from EHR vendors are few and far between, says John Showalter, chief medical information officer at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Beginning next year, EHR systems that aren't optimized for stage 2 will be more cumbersome for healthcare providers and "more of a hindrance to care for patients," says John Santangelo, director of IT for the Cleveland Clinic.

That said, Santangelo advises healthcare organizations not to forget about stage 1, as those who attested in 2011 and 2012 also need to do so this year. It's OK to focus on stage 2—and to keep an eye on stage 3, which begins in 2016—but you can't get there without maintaining the progress you've made in stage 1, he says.

Use Mandates to Enforce Change

Technology isn't the only challenge of meaningful use stage 2. The cultural change that comes with using technology to advance clinical processes hits some physicians hard. Two years implementing CPOE, only 55 percent of physicians at New Jersey's CentraState Healthcare System were using it, says Neal Ganguly, vice president and CIO, admitting that there's no penalty in place for noncompliance.

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